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The element of surprise Keeping your reader on the edge of their seat through unique descriptions
Why does surprise work? • Stimulates the reader • Possible connection to our survival mechanisms • Brains get stimulated by an unexpected twist of language
Show no mercy in editing • Let your usual phrases and word choice appear in the first draft • Kill, beat, burn out everything that smells predictable in the editing process • Get rid of cliches, formulaic, lazy writing • Fill the gaps with language that creates interest
Use familiar words in a new way • Compare the two sentences: • He crosses the consulting room’s red carpeting, his grotesquely ugly face like a big toads. No real surprises (tired cliché in grotesquely ugly and an overused metaphor (an ugly face and a big toad) • He crosses the room’s endometrial carpeting, his marvellously ugly face like a clenched fist in a glove puppet. Surprise comes from the connection to an endometrial carpet and the unusual choice of a glove puppet
Rhetorical Choices • Tools that will create added emphasis include: • Indirection (fake one way and then reverse the meaning) • “If love is the answer, could you rephrase the question” • Oxymoron (pairs incongruous or contradictory terms) • “engagingly demented” or “deep inconsequence”
Rhetorical Choices • Enallage (using one part of speech for another) • “Grammar? I’ll grammar you” • Neologisms (invented word formations) • “schmooseoisie” from the talk show host “schmooze” and the disinterested wealthy class of the “bourgeoisie”
Practice sentences • Fill in the hint words (words in parenthesis) with something surprising • “At Ozzfest, a pile of bands (played) through their inner children.” • “His smile beamed everywhere in the large room, as if his teeth were (unbelievably shiny).” • “He was older than (the hills) now and (likely) to make 100 years”